Vatican to take up sex abuse claims against suspended Millburn priest
By Mark Mueller
October 27, 2015
|Msgr. George Trabold, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in the Short Hills section of Millburn, has been suspended from ministry since October 2014, when someone lodged a 40-year-old allegation of sexual abuse.|
Decades-old sexual abuse allegations against a prominent Short Hills pastor will be referred to the Vatican for further investigation — and a possible canonical trial — after a church review board found sufficient merit in the claims to raise "grave concerns," according to a letter distributed to parishioners.
Msgr. George Trabold, 68, stepped down as leader of St. Rose of Lima Church in October 2014, when someone came forward with an abuse claim that dates to the mid-1970s. At the time of the alleged abuse, Trabold served as associate pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in Bergenfield.
The two-page letter, which was shared with parishioners at both parishes Sunday, reveals for the first time the existence of a second accuser. The letter does not describe the nature or extent of the alleged abuse, and a spokesman for Newark Archbishop John J. Myers said he could not comment on the specifics of the case.
Trabold has been barred from serving as a priest since his removal and will remain out of ministry while the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith considers his case, according to the letter and the spokesman, Jim Goodness.
"They review everything and determine what the next steps are going to be, so we're in a waiting period," Goodness said.
Trabold, who served the archdiocese in a variety of positions before his placement at St. Rose in 1998, maintains his innocence, the letter states. His attorney, Gerald Krovatin, did not return a call seeking comment Monday.
Trabold had been a beloved figure at the Short Hills church, where some parishioners have called for his return or, at the least, for the chance to testify on his behalf before the Archdiocesan Review Board, the panel that conducted a preliminary investigation into the claims. The board is composed mainly of lay people with expertise in law enforcement or sexual abuse.
The board took up its review after the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office declined to fully investigate the allegations, citing the statute of limitations, the letter states.
"After carefully weighing all of the information, the review board believes that the allegations against Monsignor Trabold cause some grave concerns and has recommended to Archbishop Myers to seek approval from the Vatican for a formal canonical proceeding to consider the facts," the letter states.
Signed by Msgr. Thomas Nydegger, the archdiocese's vicar general, the letter acknowledged the "rifts" caused by Trabold's removal from St. Rose and asked for prayers and patience.
There is no timeframe for the Vatican investigation. In some cases, such examinations have lasted for years.
If the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith finds evidence of abuse, it could seek a church trial to permanently remove Trabold from the priesthood, a process known as laicization.
It could also find no wrongdoing, clearing him for a return to ministry, or allow him to retire without his priestly faculties and without a church pension.
Trabold's suspension is one of two tests for those who attend St. Rose. The Essex County Prosecutor's Office is investigating another priest, the Rev. Alex Orozco, for allegedly accepting more than $250,000 in cash and goods from elderly women in the parish while he served there from 2012 to 2014.
Orozco, now a parochial vicar at the Church of the Nativity in Midland Park, was placed on leave from the priesthood after NJ Advance Media detailed the investigation earlier this month.